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Full text of "My Country And My People"

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WOMAN'S LIFE                    155

Sometimes an actual romance developed, as with Western
men and their mistresses. The story of Tung Hsiaowan and
Mao Pichiang, from the difficulties of their first meeting to their
short-lived, blissful wedded life, reads in no way differently
from any other romance. There were romances with happy and
unhappy endings. While Li Hsiangchiin ended up in a
monastery, Ku Hengp'o and Liu Jushih ended up as grandes
dames in rich official families, to the envy and admiration of
their generation.

The courtesan, therefore, taught many Chinese romantic
love, as the Chinese wife taught them a more earthly, real love.
Sometimes the situation was actually confusing, and Tu Mu,
who led a wild life for ten years, came back to his old wife
after an awakening. Sometimes, too, the chastity of the courte-
san was amazing, as in the case of Tu Shihniang. Besides,
she carried on the musical tradition of the country, which
without her would have died off. She was more cultivated,
more independent, and more at home in men's society than
were the family women; in fact, she was the emancipated lady
in ancient China. Her influence over high officials often gave
her a measure of political influence, for sometimes it was in
her house that political appointments were interceded for
and decided upon.

A really deserving courtesan often became a concubine or
mistress, as did practically all the above-mentioned women.
Concubinage is as old as China itself, and the problem behind
concubinage is as old as monogamy. When the marriage is
unhappy the Oriental solves it by going to the sing-song girl
or taking a concubine, while the Occidental solves it by keeping
a mistress or having occasional escapades. The modes of
social behaviour are different, while the fundamental problems
axe curiously the same. What makes a difference is the social
attitude, especially that of women, toward such behaviour.
Chinese take mistresses with public consent, while Westerners
have the decency not to talk about it.

The insistence on male progeny also greatly encouraged
concubinage. Some Chinese wives actually pleaded with their
husbands to take concubines, when they themselves had failed
to produce a son. The laws of the Ming Dynasty officially